Nissan and its JATCO Ltd. affiliate have jointly developed a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is smaller, lighter and promises to be even more efficient than anything currently on the market. In addition to being 10 percent more compact and weighing 13 percent less than the average existing CVT, this next-gen unit mixes a conventional belt-type variator with an auxiliary gearbox that allows it to offer an even broader internal ratio spread. Where most CVT's deliver about a 6.0:1 span, the Nissan-JATCO unit ups that figure to 7.3:1-- higher than the average spread found in most of today's conventional seven-speed autoshifters. Beyond the obvious potential for fuel economy gains, the wider overall gearing will contribute to greater responsiveness and quicker acceleration -- both critical factors given that this transmission was designed for use in vehicles with engines of up to 2.0 liters in displacement. Also in the design brief of this new CVT is efficiency-enhancing Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) circuitry to help optimize its functionality in all types of driving conditions. Nissan confirmed that this new transmission would appear on a number of its compact vehicles worldwide in the "near future." While it did not indicate whether any versions would also be fitted with an enthusiast-oriented, paddle-shifted "Sport" mode that creates a set of virtual "fixed" gear ratios, it's hard to image an automaker with its level of performance orientation passing up that kind of opportunity. To date, Nissan and JATCO have sold over one million vehicles equipped with CVT automatics. JATCO currently accounts for 43 percent of the CVTs sold globally.